Now that the music world has paid bicentennial homage to Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann, it’s time to sing Happy 100th Birthday to Samuel Barber.
The American composer of neo-romantic music has generously contributed to the concert and opera repertoire. He is best known for his Adagio for Strings, a grimly beautiful work that Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra first performed on a radio show in 1938.
An accomplished baritone, Barber was particularly sensitive to the setting of words to music. Some of her outstanding vocal creations include “Dover Beach”, “Hermit Songs” and “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”. He collaborated with his longtime partner, composer-librettist Gian Carlo Menotti, on a successful opera, “Vanessa”, and with Franco Zeffirelli on “Antony and Cleopatra”, which had a disastrous first opening the new Metropolitan Opera House in 1966, but whose musical strengths have since been announced.
Barber, who died in 1981, received two Pulitzer Prizes for music – for “Vanessa” (1958) and the Piano Concerto (1963). His works can be heard on numerous recordings, including a 1931 “Dover Beach” with Barber as soloist.